This Work in Progress paper describes an interdisciplinary course for first year engineering students focused on exploring the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges, and recognizing societal issues that influence engineering solutions to those challenges. This course is offered as a part of the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) at Arizona State University (ASU) to help students develop a personal plan for pursuing their interests in the program. The NAE GCSP is designed to prepare students to become the next generation of engineering leaders with a unique experience and skillset that includes hands-on research experience, interdisciplinary curriculum, entrepreneurship, global dimension, and service learning. The course described in this paper is one approach that could be used to help first year students to define and pursue their path toward becoming these future engineering leaders.
At ASU, approximately 100 freshmen engineering students admitted into GCSP enroll in this interdisciplinary course each fall semester, which is taught in sections of up to 50 students. Through participation in this course, students develop an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of the Grand Challenges and identify which challenges they want to focus their efforts on in their future in the GCSP. Students use digital portfolios throughout the course to reflect on their experience for each grand challenge theme area and their overall course experience, in order to relate their coursework to their interests and future plans. To prepare the students for their future in GCSP, students complete planning assignments which require them to meet faculty and develop a plan to complete the GCSP requirements.
The impact of this course on first year GCSP students’ awareness of the Grand Challenges, their interests, and their confidence that they will complete the GCSP was assessed. A custom survey instrument was designed to measure students’ familiarity with the Grand Challenges, GCSP requirements, and opportunities at ASU to complete GCSP requirements, as well as their confidence in their interests, future completion of the program, and having a plan to complete the program. Results indicate that this course is successful at meetings its goals of increasing students’ familiarity with the Grand Challenges and the GCSP, and at helping them to identify their interests and become confident that they have a plan for completing the GCSP.
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